(Trinidad Guardian) Most of the human trafficking cases in T&T identified by the Ministry of National Security’s Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) have been related to sexual exploitation, Alana Wheeler, CTU’s director, said yesterday.
She was addressing participants attending a conference on Human Trafficking and the Co-relation to Abuse, HIV and Aids at the Chaguanas Borough Corporation’s Regional Complex.
It was organised by the Network of Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs), with members from various religions in T&T.
“Since it began its operations (in 2011), the CTU has identified 30 persons as victims of trafficking and charged 22 T&T nationals for human trafficking and related offences.
“The victims we have encountered have come mainly from within the region, Venezuela, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guyana and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“And, yes, we have had T&T nationals as victims as well,” Wheeler told a small gathering in the auditorium.
She continued: “Most of these cases, approximately 85 per cent, have been for sexual exploitation.
“The other types have been for domestic servitude and forced labour.”
Wheeler said, at present, there were two human trafficking cases in the High Court, the two people charged being police officers.
She said there were 20 other matters in the preliminary pre-trial phase, two of which involved minors.
She said the traffickers’ main weapon was deception.
“They lure their victims via advertisements, social media acquaintances or persons known to them,” she added.
Participants were told of real cases in which young people gave suspected traffickers information on people they knew as friends.
The potential victims were later followed by people unknown to them.
“This is what is happening in our country. It’s real,” she told the conference.
Wheeler said victims were not always naive, poor and desperate people.
“They can be of any socio-economic demographic.
“We have had victims who are mature in age, university students and graduates, and people from well-connected and respected family backgrounds.”
She said calls to the CTU’s human trafficking hotline, 800-CTU have tripled since its launch.
Wheeler said FBOs have a role to play in helping victims rebuild their lives by restoring their faith and trust in God and man.
They also have a tangible role to play in providing food, clothing and shelter to victims, she added.